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July 19 – Pittsburgh Day

July 19 – Pittsburgh Day

Having grown up in West Virginia -- and having moved to the suburbs of Pittsburgh two years ago – I’ve learned a lot about the history and traditions surrounding the Steel City. And one interesting fact is July 19 is Pittsburgh day! Specifically, on July 19, 1911, the H was added back into the city’s name.

It’s well known the city of Pittsburgh was named after William Pitt, a former prime minister of England. When Pittsburgh was named, it included the “h” to pay homage to Pitt’s Scottish heritage. However, it’s not as well known that from 1891 to 1911 a federal commission decided that Pittsburgh should be spelled Pittsburg to unify cities across the country ending in “burg.” Specifically, President Benjamin Harrison in 1890 gave authority to establish the United States Board of Geographic Names, a board of ten geographers ‘to which may be referred any disputed questions of geographical orthography’—and whose decisions would be considered binding across all departments and agencies of the federal government.” One of the principles set forth by the Board with respect to “place-naming” was that the final “h” in places ending in “burgh” should be removed. Accordingly, the H was removed from the city’s name.

This change was not met with approval by many Pittsburghers. The Pittsburgh Gazette, for instance, refused to change its name as did the University of Pittsburgh. See https://www.visitpittsburgh.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/history/the-pittsburgh-h/. Accordingly, local leaders fought for the H to be added back on to the city’s name and, in 1911, the city finally won, leaving Pittsburgh as one of the few cities with an H at the end.  To this day, Pittsburghers, also known by many as “Yinzers,” celebrate July 19th each year to honor the city’s heritage!

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